When Spider-Man went to Governors Island in issues 415 and 416 of Amazing Spider-Man this past December, it was unexpected. Of all the places you might expect to find New York’s homegrown superhero, it has to be near the bottom of the list: You can’t get there via web-slinging, for one, and there aren’t any skyscrapers.
“That’s something we comment on in the story,” Fred Van Lente, who wrote the issues, told The Observer. He’ll be speaking about them on Governors Island this Sunday. “The tallest building itself turns out to be the Sandman, who has turned himself into a giant building. So that definitely turns into a bit of a complication.”
For those not in the know: The Manhattan-based Marvel Comics often uses the city’s geography as a playground for its heroes and villains, opting to use New York proper rather than hide behind Gothams and Metropoli, as the distinguished competition does. (In fact, our new offices are not terribly far from 42nd and Madison, the cross streets of the Fantastic Four’s Baxter Building).
Spider-Man’s Governors Island adventure, a storyline called “Keemia’s Castle,” centers around the Sandman, who absconds to the island with a kidnapped girl. When Spidey shows up, the girl is hesitant to leave, Van Lente said, “because Governors Island is sort of a magically wonderful place in its own right, and when your dad is the Sandman it can become even more so.”
As an avid biker, Van Lente was already a fan of Governors Island when he chose to scout the location last summer with artist Paolo Rivera, and was also inspired by a friend who partially set a novel about zombies there. “Like a lot of writers, I love sprawling abandoned buildings and army bases, so I was sort of drawn to it,” Van Lente said.
His speech on Sunday will feature photos from that scouting trip, and cover the island’s colorful history. It came about after Governors Island administrators reached out to him, having received a massive influx of interest in the island following its appearance in the pair of comics.
As for the island’s recent history, Van Lente said he hasn’t been closely following the city’s assumption of control. “Any way you can keep that place open and running is something I’m going to fully support,” he said.